2006 Distinguished Service Award – Wilton Littlechild

Wilton (Willie) Littlechild, a former Progressive Conservative Member of the House of Commons representing the riding of Wetaskiwin, Alberta, was presented the Canadian Association of Former Parliamentarians’ Distinguished Service Award in a ceremony in Ottawa on June 5, 2006 in recognition for his outstanding contributions to the promotion and understanding of Canada’s parliamentary system of government .

Mr. Littlechild acquired his Law Degree from the University of Alberta in 1976. He was the first Treaty Indian in Alberta to graduate with a law degree and the first Treaty Indian elected to the Canadian Parliament. He also graduated in 1967 with a Bachelor of Physical Education and 1975 with a Master’s Degree in Physical Education. In all his endeavours, Mr. Littlechild has exhibited commitment to excellence. As an athlete, he won more than 47 provincial, regional, national and international championships. For his efforts as a coach and organizer of sports events, he won the 1988 Paul Harris Fellowship Award from the Rotary Clubs of Canada and inducted into six Sports Walls of Fame. He was a founder of the North American Indigenous Games and is currently working on the World Indigenous Nations Games.

As a Member of Parliament from 1988 to 1993, Mr. Littlechild served on several senior committees in the House of Commons and was a parliamentary delegate to the United Nations. At the international level, he organized a coalition of Indigenous Nations that sought and gained consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations, and has recently been re-appointed by the E.C.O.S.O.C. President to the United Nations Permanent Forum for Indigenous Peoples. In 1999, Mr. Littlechild’s many accomplishments were recognized when he was awarded the Order of Canada and the World Fete D’ Excellence Laureate for Sports 1999/2000 in Geneva, Switzerland. He was awarded Queen’s Counsel and Indigenous Peoples’ Counsel by the Legal Profession. Recent international awards won by Mr. Littlechild include an American Medal of Honour and an International Medal of Honour for Law and Sports in 2003, and he was inducted into the Order of International Ambassadors and as as one of 2000 outstanding intellectuals of the 21st Century in 2004.

Willie Littlechild receiving the 2006 Distinguished Service Award from the Speaker of the Senate, the Honourable Noël Kinsella, Senator (right) and the Speaker of the House of Commons, the Honourable Peter Milliken, M.P. (left).

Acceptance Speech

“Mr. Speakers, honourable senators, members of Parliament and distinguished guests, I bring you greetings from the Maskwacîs Cree Nation near Wetaskiwin in Treaty 6 territory.

“Those of you in public life know about the great sacrifices our families make to help us serve our nation. Really, this honour belongs to my wife and our three children, Teddi, Neil and Megan. Without their support and that of the Maskwacîs Cree, I would not be here. I accept this recognition on their behalf and dedicate it to my five grandchildren, Shaynna, Cleveland, Summer, Keeshon and Nea. I dedicate it also to the spirit of my grandparents and parents, whose positive influences guided my life’s choices.

“I came here this morning with mixed emotions, so I also dedicate this award to my adopted brother, Roy, whose funeral is also today, and to all those we honour in memoriam for their service.

“It is about family, is it not? My sisters reminded me of three instructions my parents used to share with us: Get up! Go to school! Go to work! Our grandparents reared us with a belief that you should always work for and give back to your community. My grandfather, Chief Dan Minde, a leader for 33 years, said to us: “You will be given your community in a certain condition. While it is in your hands, do everything that you can to make it better and then proudly give it to your children — the future.”

“An adopted uncle, Elder O’Cheise, was approached by a former prime minister at a difficult time in our country. He offered a solution in Cree: “upintook,” which means “to lift each other up.” Sadly, he said, “We put each other down too often, or knock each other down. Now is the time to pick each other up and from then on to support each other.”

“In retrospect, together with a winning spirit from Golden Bear’s sports, these were important guidelines for my parliamentary career. I thought then, and I still do today, what a tremendous honour it was to be in the House of Commons as a member of Parliament and to be given an opportunity to build on the great strengths of our land. Thank you to the constituents of Wetaskiwin and to my former staff and colleagues in both Houses of Parliament for allowing me to live a very memorable and historic experience. For 30 years, I have also had the honour of working at “Mamao Atoskay Kamik,” which is Cree for the United Nations. It means, “the place where people work together.”

“I would be remiss if I did not take the opportunity to urge this government and both chambers of Parliament to consider three important recommendations from the United Nations: first, to ratify ILO Convention 169; second, to consider the former Bill S-16 from the previous Parliament as a solution; and, third, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues last week recommended the adoption, without amendment, of the Draft Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples by the United Nations General Assembly during its sixty-first session this year. It would represent a major achievement for the second decade. This is a win-win proposal. It is a framework for partnerships, action and dignity. It is like treaties in that it is a declaration with minimum international norms, which sets the groundwork for partnerships. It is a balanced way forward that calls on us to respect each other and, indeed, offers the possibility of better relations among our peoples to lift each other up.

“Being back here at last Thursday’s prayer breakfast reminded me of a question that I was asked after my term: What is the one thing that impressed you most about Parliament? I said, we prayed. Each day before the session begins off camera, we stand collectively to say a prayer for guidance and thanksgiving. My grandma would have been proud of that.

“In conclusion, may the great spirit, or whichever way you acknowledge our creator, bless you.”

Willie Littlechild accepts the 2006 Distinguished Service Award.